Want to know a way to test your Catholic Faith? Try moving 5,000 miles away from your friends and family to a country where you barely speak the language. Well, that’s what I did when I decided to pack up and move to Graz, Austria for a semester abroad.
It can be hard to keep faithful while in a new place. I left the comfort of my family that I would go to mass with every Sunday, I left my friends who motivate me to become closer to God, I left the only church I have ever really known, and traded it for a city where there is a church on every corner but no one to motivate me to go.
Here are some ways that have helped me keep my Faith while I have been abroad.
Being involved with FOCUS while abroad:
Long after I decided where I was going to study abroad, I found out that FOCUS’s first international campuses are in Austria. One is in Vienna and one is in my very own city of Graz! You could say that God knew that I was going to struggle and decided to put some people in my life that could help! The missionaries here have helped me in more ways than I could imagine. On my first day in Graz, one missionary showed me and two other girls from OU all around the city. From where our dorms were, to where to buy a good pair of boots, to how to work the Tram system and everywhere in between. They have invited me into their homes for girls nights or bible studies. Beyond all of that, they have helped me meet other Catholic students studying in Austria and help me develop a community while I am here for the semester. It’s also really nice to have some Americans around who totally understand how overwhelming it can be to be in a German speaking country when you speak minimal German!
Attending Mass even when I have no idea what is going on:
Mass is very tricky to understand when everything is in German. Most of the time I am completely lost during mass because even though all masses are celebrated the same, the words that are said are completely different. I probably look super American when I am just standing there quietly instead of saying the parts of the mass or when I have a super confused look on my face during the homily. The most exciting moments are when we say something in Latin and I actually know the words or when there is a random English song sung. I may be completely lost during most of the mass but when it comes to the consecration, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, we all recognize what happens on the altar and the importance of the Eucharist.
Sharing my Catholic Faith with others:
There are two girls from OU who I am pretty close to because we left Oklahoma City at the same time and took the same flights all the way to Vienna. Once in Vienna, we struggled to pull our luggage for a mile through the snow to our hostel and then navigate from Vienna to Graz. Let’s just say we have a bond that can never be broken. In that time, it kind of came up that I was Catholic, probably when it was our first Sunday in Graz and I was getting up at 7am to go to mass. I’ve been able to introduce them to my faith, been able to invite them to mass and I even had one friend join me at an Ash Wednesday service. Even if nothing ever comes of me sharing it, the fact that I am so proud to be Catholic provides me with strength to keep God in my life.
I feel like every moment that I have experience since starting my adventure abroad has been because God put me here for a reason. I not sure what he has in store for me this semester, but I know all I have to do is have faith in him and He will guide me on this journey.
Two of the FOCUS missionaries in Graz, Tina and Taryn!
My OU friends that I traveled with, Clancy and Abbey!
Blog post by Lauren Schrank